May 29, 2024

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Interview with David Braid: What makes life more meaningful for me: Videos and reportage from concerts …

Jazz interview with jazz pianist David Braid. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

David Braid: – I didn’t grow up in a musical family, per se, but when I was 2 years old, my older brother, who could read music, taught me the notes on the treble clef, and I could play a few simple tunes by ear on the piano.    I ended up going to his teacher when I was 3, but she was quite verbally and physically rough and I stopped taking lessons around 10 years old.  When I was 16 years old, an unexpected musical epiphany set me on my current trajectory.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the piano? What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the piano?

DB: – I had no choice because I was so young when I started. However, when I came back to music at 16 years old, the piano was the most convenient tool for learning about how music worked.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

DB: – In the beginning of my jazz studies, I had no interest in “finding my own sound” – I was just interested in absorbing every corner of the jazz piano tradition that excited me. A fundamental shift occurred when I started to compose my own music, the more I did it, the more I discovered ideas which didn’t exactly fit into any of the previous styles I was acquainted with. In a sense, by orienting myself with the basic limits of the styles I studied, I was aware of my own ideas which sat beyond those limits. When I started to create music incorporating some  ideas beyond the limits, I suppose that was the beginning of “finding my own sound.”

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

DB: – With regards to practice routine and exercise, I try my best to have clearly defined goals, and use efficient learning tools. Writing out music problems in words, and analyzing it “in words” is a good way to ensure the content that I practice has a direct benefit to me; it also helps me stay focused instead of letting my mind wander. In short, mental preparation is important before I actually sit down at the piano.

With respect to jazz rhythm (and pulse, time, articulation, vocabulary, etc)  studying jazz drums is the most effective method for me.  Rhythm is not a “piano” problem, so getting away from the piano and onto the drums confronted the problem more directly. I studied from a beautifully simple method called “The Essence of Jazz Drumming” written by Jim Blackley.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

DB: – I am not thinking so much about harmonic systems these days because I used to be very focused on them. I am thinking much more about form, melody, and rhythm.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album 2017: <The North>, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

DB: – “The North” is a project with two Canadians and two Scandinavians.. so a project about musicians from Northern countries.  What I like about that band is exploring “long form” composition in jazz – where solos don’t share the same form as they normally do in a more conventional format.

The North, I think, could be one of my last jazz projects, at least by the traditional jazz format.  I am much more interested these days in jazz “as a language (a verb)” and not “as a style (a noun.)”   So I am exploring ways of using what jazz does, in terms of creative freedom, and combining that with more structured and nuanced composition.

JBN.S: – Which are the best jazz albums for you of 2017 year?

DB: – My listening in 2017 pertained to studying composition – so it was studying a few scores in detail. One recording I listened to a lot last year was “La Pasion Segun San Marcos” by Osvaldo Golijov.  It’s stunning music and, like jazz, another blend of American, European and African music.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

DB: – I think every artist and listener has a different answer to that.  For me, I prefer music that evokes feeling because that creates a bond between the music creator and the listener.  But feeling in the absence of intellect is not attractive and that’s why some “pop” music doesn’t hold my attention for too long. Perhaps the most interesting music to me achieves the highest level of intellectual design but evokes high volumes of feeling, or soul.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

DB: – There are too many. I hope to make some new ones in Armenia this week.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

DB: – Yes. Aspire to the highest level of musical competency by focusing on solidifying the fundamental aspects of music in your own playing.  This will make you an excellent musician and that commands respect by any other excellent musician.  Also, be as prepared as possible for every musical opportunity (big or small) so you surely put your best foot forward at each step. Lastly, make every musical situation better because you are involved, and that also means how you conduct yourself socially with the musical community to which you are involved.  In sum, competency and reliability are two strategies for establishing a good reputation which will ultimately carry you through a career.  Wisely managing your money – so you can afford a musical career- is also helpful!

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

DB: – Probably jazz “as a style” can be commercialized and sold as a kind of brand. I’m not so interested in that, because I don’t think I’m very good at copying as a long term musical direction … maybe that’s I’ve gone off in my own direction.

JBN.S: – Which collaboration have been the most important experiences for you?

DB: – The next one.  This means that, the most important experience is the feeling the desire to evolve.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

DB: – We know that jazz standards are only one part of repertoire, and we play them as a kind of standard dialect which most of our favourite jazz musicians played.  There are more jazz programs around the world today than ever before in history, so I’d say that we don’t have any problem getting young people interested in playing jazz.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

DB: – I interpret Coltrane’s sentiment as explaining that the goal of a performance is to express something fundamentally internal, which we can do if we are disciplined enough that technique doesn’t get in the way.

As for your second question, I prefer to answer “what makes life more meaningful.” What makes life more meaningful for me, is trying to make situations better by my effort and involvement.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

DB: – I expect to continue searching, building, presenting, and rebuilding.  This search is something I do daily, even in the busiest days, and the by-product of that is a feeling of peace, which is the opposite of anxiety.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

DB: – That the system of musical patronage would become common again.. This means that music creators can work again without concern for business.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

And reporting from concerts of David Braid in Yerevan

There are meny piano solo in the history jazz. Ask any concert hall owner too cheap even to pay scale, and he’ll say his favorite configuration for a trio is piano, piano player and stool. Ask any pianist whose performing is worth a small fortune every time and he’ll agree, but only because it translates into the ultimate freedom.

So in the Yerevan, Cafesjian Museum of Art centre played jazz pianist David Braid, as naked as an artist can be, sans rhythm players, sharing tracks. No need for elaborate arrangements. Just set up the sound properly …

But David Braid talked a lot and played the piano a little. The audience was filled with listeners, from which there are not many chances in Yerevan to listen to good jazz music, including solo jazz and they took it with an ovation.

It’s good that so many people are pursuing jazz in Yerevan. It would be nice if has jazz had many, a lot of fans.

P.S. – Here are two examples of my work in that direction:

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